Roman Maciejewski

Life - Education (Poznań/Warsaw)

Roman Maciejewski began his education in Poznań in 1924 by studying piano at the local conservatoire. This was a turning point, for it marked the beginning of a true professionalisation of his artistic journey. The teachers influencing it in Poznań included Bohdan Zaleski, Kazimierz Sikorski and Stanisław Wiechowicz. Thanks to Wiechowicz Maciejewski became an assistant conductor of the Polish Singing Society’s choir, which began his fascination with choral music (Kurpie Songs, masses). The situation was similar with his fondness for dance – it was in Poznań that Maciejewski worked for the first time as an accompanist at a private dance school, run by Walentyna Szaposznikow-Wiechowicz (he would later return to this activity in Warsaw, at Janina Mieczyńska’s school and then in Sweden).

In a natural continuation of his artistic development, in 1931 Maciejewski became a student at the Warsaw Conservatoire and began to study composition with Kazimierz Sikorski. This was also a time when he wrote his first pieces (Mazurkas and Songs of Bilitis), highly regarded in musical circles. In addition to lessons with his composition professor, Maciejewski also had consultations with no less a figure than Karol Szymanowski, whose teaching focused on “inspiring the spirit of progress”. As Maciejewski recalled later:

I played my Mazurkas to him. The Master began to pace around the room, nodded his head and said: “These Mazurkasdo not resemble my music.” I replied that I was a bit different as well and that is why my Mazurkas were different from his music. From that moment he would follow my progress in composition with great interest and kindness.

[in E. Markowska, Szymanowski i jego Europa, Warsaw 1997, p. 103.]

As a student Roman had to find a way to support himself in the capital, so he was forced to accept various jobs (mainly as a accompanist at Teatr Polski, Polish Radio or a dance school). In addition, he invested his energy in his career – his first pieces were published in print at the time and were also performed in concert. After one of such concerts Karol Szymanowski noted:

[Time – MW] was filled with music of the “youngest”, almost unknown and not yet renowned. And suddenly this warm atmosphere of emotion and enthusiasm engulfing the room… especially after Roman Maciejewski’s pieces, deep and sincere joy of Karol [Stryjeński – MW] that once again something of lasting value is being created in Polish art and that once again he managed to help and bring it to light!

[Szymanowski, “Pamięci Karola Stryjeńskiego”, Wiadomości Literackie 1933 no. 5, 22 January, pp. 4–5.]

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?) the composer fairly quickly finished his career as a Warsaw Conservatoire student – as early as in 1932 he took part in a student strike in defence of the Conservatoire’s rector, Karol Szymanowski, for which he was expelled. On the other hand, this debacle opened up many professional opportunities to him, mainly thanks to numerous personal contacts, for example with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Józef Beck and his wife Jadwiga.